Nurse loses license for unsafely discharging patient who died in blizzard

Earlier this year, we reported that patients who self-discharge ultimately cost hospitals 9 percent more to treat. But for a Maine nursing supervisor who allowed a heavily drugged and under-dressed patient to leave on foot during a snowstorm, failure to follow safe discharge practices cost him his nursing license after the patient died.

John Zablotny was the nursing supervisor at Down East Community Hospital on duty on January 1, 2008, when Reid Emery, who had been brought by ambulance five days earlier with stomach pains, began asking to leave. Despite a brewing snowstorm keeping family from picking him up and nurses' advice that the patient was too weak to leave the hospital, Zablotny provided Emery with discharge papers and showed him the door.

In finding Zablotny guilty of incompetent nursing practice and unprofessional conduct, the nursing board determined that his failings included not reviewing the patient's medical records, which showed he was on medication; ignoring advice of other staff members to keep the patient in the hospital or at least notify the local police he was leaving; and neglecting to verify that the patient had transportation or a specific destination and that he patient was properly clothed.

After Emery's wife learned of the incident and called law enforcement for help, Emery's body was found the next day approximately 18 feet from the hospital's side wall, having died of hypothermia and opiate toxicity.

Zablotny's nursing license was revoked for two years and he must pay a $1,500 fine and the cost of the hearing. He is no longer working for the hospital, Kate Simmons, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Janet T. Mills, said Friday.

To learn more:
- read this article in The Bangor Daily News